The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish in today’s gospel hearkens back to the miracle of the manna that kept the Hebrews alive during their forty-year trek across the desert from Egypt into the Promised Land. And it points forward, as a prophecy, to the institution of the Eucharist, the sacrament in which the manna of Christ’s Body and Blood is made available, in abundance, to Christ’s disciples, “until the end of the age.” His Body and Blood are the lifeblood of his body, the Church, the spiritual manna that keeps us Christian, that makes and keeps us a part of Him. This is one of the finer illustrations we have of the incredible continuity in Scripture, from the book of Genesis, right through to the Apocalypse.
The reality of the Real Presence, the presence of the Risen Jesus in the bread and wine of our eucharists, is a hard sell. Viewed against the background of the whole of Scripture, it makes a whole lot of sense, but not everyone possesses this background, so they are challenged to believe that the bread and wine of our eucharists become the Body and Blood of Christ, without anything to shore up this conviction for them. In the face of this difficulty, I can only say two things. The first: think manna. Think simply of Christ present in the consecrated bread and wine of our eucharists as a spiritual food sent from Heaven to keep us alive as Christians. Is that not a very appealing, wonderful thought?
The second thing I can say is that we must acknowledge the difficulty of this article of our faith, confront it squarely, and turn to the only sure source of overcoming the difficulty: the grace of the Holy Spirit. Already in the gospel of John, we realize that our generation isn’t the first to struggle with this. Jesus’ audience was scandalized by his teaching: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” Jn 6,56 “After this, many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.” Ibid., 6,66 In the same passage, Jesus hints at the solution to this dilemma: “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail.” Ibid 6,63 In other words, we can argue the reasonableness of our Catholic conviction of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species all we like, ultimately, belief in this article of our creed, like all the others, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. So let us do the obvious, what naturally follows. Let us humbly, simply pray for the grace to believe in the presence of Christ to us in the manna of the bread and wine of our eucharists. To live in the holding of this beautiful mystery is a privilege too precious to miss out on, when it is within our grasp, by the grace of God. Let us pray for the grace to hold fast to it, always.
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On another joyful note, this Saturday, June 22nd, we celebrated our very first Vanspec confirmation. You will recall that we successfully introduced Vanspec, a catechetical programme for children with special needs, to St. Mary’s Parish last September. The eldest of these children are now ready for confirmation. It is a joyous event, because if it were not for Vanspec, these children may well have “fallen through the cracks” and never have been confirmed. As it happens, however, they have been, and have entered with us into the fullness of discipleship. There is cause here for great rejoicing. Please, on their behalf, lift up to God a prayer of thanksgiving for Vanspec, and for all those who have made it a reality in our archdiocese and in our parish, most notably, Lucy Rodjito, who got us going, and Christina Reyes, our current Vanspec coordinator. Blessed be God for the generosity he inspires in people’s hearts, and for the fruitfulness he gives to that generosity.
To all a pleasant, blessed week, Fr. Guy